The “gradpreneurs” are coming…

 

Okay, I must confess my naivety to begin with. A few weeks ago I was twittering away in a conversation about predicting job trends for 2012 (following my Guardian Careers podcast recording). I said, we’re going to see more young people starting businesses, not just young people, but graduates – in fact, 2012 will be the year of the “gradpreneurs”!

Gradpreneurs? “What an original concept,” I thought, “Perhaps I should copyright it!” Clearly I had failed to do my vital Google research otherwise I would have quickly seen that the word gradpreneur has it’s fair share of internet use – from individuals declaring themselves as one, to an actual organisation called Gradpreneurs, which provides a support platform designed to encourage entrepreneurship amongst the graduate community (guess I have to find another route to my millions).

Junior Ogunyemi - leading the way for "gradpreneurs"

22-year-old author and social entrepreneur, Junior Ogunyemi - leading the way for "gradpreneurs"

So if everyone’s talking about it, what exactly is a gradpreneur and why do I think it’s going to be big in 2012 and beyond? I’m glad you asked! The strictest definition of gradpreneur is a graduate who is also an entrepreneur. However, in the contest of this blog post, I’m also referring to student entrepreneurs such as this young man Junior Ogunyemi (we’ll come to him in a minute).

Grim statistics

Last week the ONS published yet more grim statistics on the number of young people unemployed, which now stands at 1.04 million – the highest in record history. In that same week I received a copy of Phoenix in the post, the thrice yearly publication of AGCAS (the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services), and in this particular edition the focus was on enterprise and careers and how universities were handling this inevitable merge (I wrote about this in November following a speaking visit to the very impressive Southampton Solent university – read it here).

What’s the connection? Well, if on the one hand unemployment rates are rising among the 16-24 age group but yet recent studies also show that the number of graduates considering self-employment has risen to 32%, it can only mean that an awakening is happening; slowly perhaps, but happening all the same – the gradpreneurs are coming! More and more young people are realising that the 40-year job package illusion sold to previous generations no longer exists. Becoming an entrepreneur – or at least creating some form of additional stream of income on the side – is becoming more and more of a realistic alternative or perhaps the only option available to today’s graduates and future generations.

The best of both worlds

In his book, How to be a Student Entrepreneur, the award-winning social entrepreneur, Junior Ogunyemi, actively encourages this practice.  Still just 22 years old, Junior – who himself started several successful businesses while juggling coursework, exams and student life – says there is no conflict between excelling in full time education and becoming a successful entrepreneur. In fact, being a gradpreneur affords you the best of both worlds as you can take full advantage of being a student to benefit from free access to business start up resources and advice, interest free loans, discounted travel, equipment and much more, all the time creating an additional income stream for yourself. Now if only this book had been around when I was at university, who knows what great entrepreneurial heights I may have climbed by now!

Richard Sant, Enterprise Director at the University of Portsmouth, writes in a Phoenix article that an interesting phenomenon is emerging whereby “the harder a student or graduate tries to start their own business, the more likely they are to be headhunted or offered a job”. So whether or not a gradprenuer fails or succeeds in business in the long run, one thing that’s clear is the experience gained from trying is priceless. These new breed of young people should definitely be welcomed and encouraged as in fact, the future of our economy may well depend on them.


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